This article originally appeared in The Liberator.
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — Ten anti-abortion demonstrators were arrested and charged with criminal trespassing after linking arms to block the doors of EMW Women’s Surgical Center this morning.
The demonstrators were performing what was known as a “rescue”, a tactic that was common in the 80s and 90s to interpose on behalf of children scheduled to be murdered.
According to a press release in StandardNewsWire, “A small band of committed Christians with Operation Rescue National/Operation Save America are crossing a line that has not been crossed for close to 20 years… They are risking arrest to rescue their preborn neighbor. In the battle to end abortion, the American holocaust, these Rescuers have counted the cost and are willing to pay the price to protect the lives of their preborn neighbors.”
Operation Save America Director Rusty Thomas organized the event, and was one of those arrested.
“Our righteous purpose is to call the Church to interpose by laying down her life to save the preborn. We also call upon the civil magistrates in Kentucky to interpose by defending the lives of the preborn by ignoring the lawless ruling of Roe vs. Wade, establish justice, and abolish abortion now!” Thomas said.
EMW has been the center of controversy recently. Pro-life advocates and Kentucky Governor Matthew Bevins have attempted to shut down the state’s last surgical abortion center, citing insufficient transfer agreements with hospitals and ambulatory services.
Thomas and others are now calling on the governor to interpose by defying court rulings that have kept the clinic open.
Much debate has taken place between anti-abortion groups about whether the revival of the rescue movement’s strategy is effective or useful. Some have argued that civil disobedience is sin and that Christians must obey the law of the land.
“Sometimes Christians must break the law in order to truly love their neighbor. Weren’t those who smuggled slaves to freedom breaking the law? Weren’t those who hid Jews from their Nazi persecutors breaking the law?” asked Elizabeth Johnston, in her blog The Activist Mommy.
Many abolitionists agree with Johnston that one must obey God’s law rather than man’s, but still argue that the time for this particular type of civil disobedience has not yet come and that these actions have the potential to be counter productive, while not saving immediate lives.
Anti-abortion Pastor Jeff Durbin weighed in, saying “It’s important to stress that there are absolutely times, places, and circumstances in which civil disobedience is a godly course of action.” But he also added that “in the case of trespassing, locking ourselves inside clinics, and violating the law at abortion-mills, we have learned that this course of action severely limits our mission of actually saving lives and bringing the Gospel. It adds an unnecessary and distracting component of litigation, incarceration, and financial distress that only puts distance between us and our mission at the mill and in the culture.”
According to The Liberator’s Managing Editor T. Russell Hunter, who posted a video Friday explaining his position on the event, the need of the hour is getting Christians to acknowledge their guilt before God in neglecting justice and mercy, so that the church can interpose as a unified body.
Abolitionist Tyler Rogers said that patients were simply led in the back door of the clinic instead of the front. “For those of us out there it made things more complicated than usual,” he said. “On an average day when women come to EMW they have to walk down the sidewalk with us, so we have the ability to walk with them and reason, but due to the front entrance being blocked, the women were escorted around to the back entrance, which made reasoning with them much more difficult than usual.”
Speaking of the demonstrators, Rogers added, “Regardless, I feel their hearts were in the right place, and I admire what they were willing to put on the line for the sake of the unborn.”
Other abolitionists agreed. Abolitionist Johnny Hauser exhorted other abolitionists to show kindness, compassion, and recognize the sacrifice of those who were willing to go to jail on behalf of their preborn neighbors, even while disagreeing with the wisdom of the strategy.
“Offering yourself to a cage for years (if federal indictments are issued for violating the FACE Act) because you think it’s the best way to help people not get murdered is incredibly like Christ,” Hauser said. “If there’s a lack of wisdom… that should be pointed out and it’s really unfortunate. I just think there should be overwhelming kindness toward them because of the good.”
“Whatever one’s belief regarding this particular strategy of interposition, it is hard not to respect the courage and sacrifice on display in Kentucky today,” Johnston wrote.
The demonstrators were released from custody this morning.